Many book appraisal and review services assure readers of the quality of self-published books – and indie authors of their own worth. Californian novelist Catherine Wilson so enjoyed having her own books reviewed by Awesome Indies that she went on to volunteered as one of their team of reviewers. Here she explains why.
Self-Publishing in Disguise
When I self-published my trilogy in 2008, I tried my best to look like a “real” publisher. I started my own publishing company, Shield Maiden Press, for one reason and one reason only. I was following the advice of other self-publishers, who said “Do everything you can not to look self-published”.
And it worked. For a while. A few reviewers stated that the trilogy had been published by a “small niche publisher.” No one seemed to notice that the small niche publisher hadn’t published anything—or anyone—else.
Indie Authorship Comes of Age
Fast-forward a few years and now we’re indies. And that’s when I began to hear the warnings from the naysayers—that indie books are dreadful, full of typos, spelling errors, grammatical errors, formatting errors, and, oh by the way, the stories suck. Book bloggers complained about “the indie industry”—as if people who are, by definition, independent can be characterized as a homogeneous industry. And I wondered how many indie books those bloggers had read without realizing they were self-published because the author/publisher went to great lengths, as I did, to disguise that fact.
Yes, there are thousands of people uploading hideously bad books. And there are thousands more who are putting out great books, and they are often the kinds of books that traditional publishing won’t touch.
What I find so frustrating about the folks who complain about indie books is that they don’t seem to grasp the revolutionary upside of independent publishing. When you’re an indie, you can write what you want. You can cross genres. You can disregard genres altogether. You can write the books that are too controversial or too different or of interest to too few people to be considered commercial by traditional publishers. For anyone tired of the predictable offerings from traditional publishing, the indies provide an astonishingly wide and deep alternative.
My Awesome Experience
Early in 2013, I discovered the Awesome Indies website, and it impressed me as a viable solution to the problem of quality. AI was created by a group of publishing professionals for the stated purpose of discovering and promoting the gems of indie publishing. Their primary criterion for inclusion is this: Is the quality of this book comparable to that of traditionally published books?
Awesome Indies accepted Book I of my trilogy, and on the strength of that acceptance, I was able to submit the entire trilogy to the Historical Novel Society, which had just opened up to indies, and they gave it a stunning review. Marketing sites like BookBub take great care to avoid promoting bad books, and the AI seal was all I needed to be accepted there.
What makes Awesome Indies different is that, unlike other sites that give you no reason for rejecting your book, the AI reviewer will let you know exactly why it didn’t make the cut.
How Awesome Indies Operate
AI reviewers look at both story and execution. Too many errors—spelling, punctuation, grammar—is a common cause for rejection, but authors are given an opportunity to correct the problems and resubmit. AI reviewers use the book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Second Edition), as a guideline for critiquing amateurish writing. Many indie authors have no way of knowing how their work stacks up against the work of traditionally published writers. Now they do.
I was so convinced of the value of a site like Awesome Indies that when Tahlia Newland, overwhelmed by review requests, asked for volunteer reviewers, I volunteered and was accepted.
A lot is going on at Awesome Indies right now. We’re redoing the website, adding reviewers, and trying to handle the increasing volume of review requests. For most of us it’s not only a labor of love but a labor of enlightened self-interest. Every indie author will benefit when the reading public discovers the great books we have to offer.
OVER TO YOU: Awesome Indies is of course just one of many review services available endeavouring to raise the quality of self-published books If you've had experience of using any book review service for quality control, please feel free to share advice (or indeed cautions!) via the comments box.